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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Downside of Gender Equality

The Sixth Circuit heard arguments last week in a case from Michigan, where the plaintiffs are arguing that the Michigan High School Athletic Association violates federal antidiscrimination statutes, namely Title IX, by scheduling female sports in different seasons from male sports. (Story) The harm claimed is that playing in off seasons affects girls chances to get athletic scholarships. Back in 2001, the federal district court held for the plaintiffs and the case has been in appeal ever since. The latest argument, on remand from the Supreme Court, is on a procedural point that is not likely to end the case.

The question I have, however, is not related to whether the practice is discriminatory. Even if it is (under a strict reading of Title IX), do female athletes suffer more by having to play at the same time of their male counterparts? Last month, the Washington Post featured an interesting article on just this topic. (Watts, "Title IX Ruling Makes Girls' Sports a Tough Draw," Wash. Post, 02/21/06).

In 2000, a federal district court in Virginia faced the identical question and came to the same conclusion, ordering that female teams play in the same season as male teams. The result, however, has not been all positive. Now that they are competing with boys teams, many girls teams have experienced a sharp drop-off in attendance since the schedule change.
    By tip-off of the Feb. 3 [girls] game, fewer than a hundred fans filled the Loudoun County bleachers. And aside from both teams' junior varsity players, fewer than 20 people in the gym appeared to be of high-school age.

    But just 2.3 miles down the road at Heritage, where the Pride boys were hosting Loudoun County on their Senior Night, nearly 800 fans filled those bleachers, an estimated 70 percent of them students from the two schools.

    "I remember my freshman year there were tons of kids at the games and afterward they'd all be on the court celebrating with us or whatever," said Broad Run senior Whitney Vlasic, a four-year varsity basketball player. "Now it's all parents in the stands."
There are also problems with locker rooms and practice times, especially for schools that have just one court. Teams must practice very early before school or very late after school; many games are now played at odd times, or even at other schools' gyms, to accommodate all of the teams.

So, does this help girls athletics more than it hurts it? I haven't seen the data on athletic scholarships (or other potential harms), but I find it hard to believe it is that great. After all, college teams want the best athletes, no matter when they play. And, considering the fact that the overwhelming majority (at least 99 percent) of high school athletes don't receive athletic scholarships, is the burden so widespread to make it a problem? On the other hand, if girls basketball was played in a different season than boys, both squads could share top-notch gyms, practice facilities and gyms. Students could come support both teams, rather than being forced to pick one over another. In other words, there would be little discrepancy between male and female teams. Isn't that what Title IX is all about?


What if girls have to make choices between sports that boys don't have to make?

Blogger Milbarge -- 3/21/2006 2:26 PM  

What about the stupid decisions schools make in regards to this rule that ruines several universities. The Providence College Friars played big east baseball and had to get rid of that team for this stupid rule. And they won the big east their last year in existence. I cannot believe you can get rid of the greatest sport like baseball over this stupid rule. We are talking baseball here. Our country has lost total respect for baseball between this and the Olympics and the representation and management of the World Baseball Classic.

Anonymous tommie -- 3/23/2006 7:12 PM  

Tommie---you forgot to add two words: "are forced", as in: What about the stupid decisions schools ARE FORCED to make in regards to this rule . . ."?
And it ain't just at Providence: Here at Colorado College, men's baseball and golf were dropped years ago . . . for women's softball and golf! Southern Colorado in Pueblo (now CSU-Pueblo) had a nationally-ranked wrestling program dropped, in direct part because of Title IX.
OK, that was a little off the original post; this case in Michigan should have been tossed out years ago for precisely the reasons shown in the Virginia story. Merely because girls' b-ball was played in the fall while boys' b-ball was in the winter should NEVER have been a basis for a Title IX suit; if anything, that would fly in the face of common sense, since it would seem that women's college coaches would have more chances to see recruits play in the college off-season, than
during the college season.
In short: WHEN a season for a sport is played should NEVER be grounds for a Title IX lawsuit; this is another good reason for a more thorough review or outright repeal of Title IX, or some kind of exemption for athletics from Title IX.
(I'm waiting to see the lawsuit from any college in D-1 asking why do boys have 13 scholarships while girls still can have 15. Takers?)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/27/2006 10:23 AM  

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